Donna Kim-Brand

Have you noticed? There’s an emerging trend towards ‘Gray-pride’- leaving the hair color of old behind and allowing one’s natural gray to come out of the closet.

The jury is still out, but as the age-wave ripples forward, there has been a tipping toward embracing going gray over the hassles, expense and unnatural aspect of dying one’s hair. Mother Nature builds in facial wrinkles over time that some say juxtaposes in too stark a manner with perky colored hair. It’s just not age-appropriate and can make one appear clownish.

Of course, there are built-in paradoxes. Is gray sexy, suave and professional, bespeaking the wisdom of age? Or is it a demonstration of over-the-hill, seasoned senior, time to retire and past-your-sell-by date has-beens? And, is there a double standard between how society perceives men and women who go gray? Some will use the term ‘eminence-gris’ – conveying a sense of gravitas and stature that goes with gray while others will joke that a white haired person looks like a giant Q-tip. Go figure!

Certainly, aging celebrities are embracing gray or white hair by droves. Just look at box-office stars Dame Helen Mirren ever-elegant in her 70’s, Diane Keaton, Blythe Danner and Olympia Dukakis going strong in their 60’s, Jamie Lee Curtis in her 50’s and even supermodel Kate Moss in her 40’s using a gray-lights method to ease from blonde to gray. And let’s not forget the regal countenance of Maya Angelou.

There are, however, tricks for women to ‘look good’ going gray. It is recommended that you use a blue-rinse shampoo or apply a violet-based gloss at your favorite salon in order to reduce the yellowing of your hair. Since gray and white hair reflect sunlight, you will become a focal point, so remember to take time to keep your hair cut and styled. It’s still your choice whether to go long or short, but as you age your hair may thin out, so keep that in mind.  Additionally, why not brighten up your face by using lipsticks that pop with rich color.

Men, like George Clooney with his salt and pepper gray or Anderson Cooper with his pure platinum white, are referred to as distinguished and sensual. They can get away with flecks of gray or white creeping in at their temples in a way most women can’t. So men don’t usually feel compelled to go gray cold-turkey; they can ease into the change in their appearance without having to resort to coloring their hair. In fact, even for a short hair style, it may take six to nine months to grow out a full head of hair from dyed to all gray. That’s why my eventual plan, when ready to relinquish the vibe of being a red-head, is to shave my head for charity and let it grow back in gray.

On a more serious note, some will attest to age or gender discrimination based on a head of gray hair. If you are over fifty and job hunting, some consultants recommend covering up your gray to look five or ten years younger and being willing to take a pay cut. Unless you are male, in which case your graying temples may be considered professorial and the stuff of leadership potential. Ouch.

For what it’s worth, human biology is designed to shift as we age in ways that are genetic and sometimes out of our control. What remains in our control is how we carry ourselves, how we relate and connect with others and how we contribute the wisdom we’ve accumulated over the years, gray hair or not. So find a way to enjoy the journey and the scenery along the way, knowing that to ‘go gray or not to go gray’, is hardly the ultimate question. But it’s a fun one to ask.

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